Jul 21st, 2009

2003 Draft in Review

By Dan Santaromita

The 2003 White Sox were a talented team that never quite put it together enough to win the division. The 2003 Draft for the Sox was a bunch of guys that never quite put it together either. It was another of many notably poor drafts in the early 2000s for the organization. So far the 2003 draft has only produced two Major Leaguers and neither has had much success yet. Oddly, two of the team’s current young stars, John Danks (9th) and Carlos Quentin (29th), were both drafted in the first round of this draft, but not by the Sox. Former White Sox reliever David Aardsma also went 22nd. Let’s take a look at the players the Sox actually did draft.

The first round pick was Brian Anderson, selected 15th overall out of Arizona. Anderson was a top prospect and made it through the minors at a good pace, but hasn’t been able to produce in the Majors. He is a good defensive centerfielder, but hasn’t taken the job full time since being handed it in 2006 after Aaron Rowand was traded away. He showed flashes of improvement this season, but his career OPS in over 800 Major League plate appearances is in the mid .600s. Needless to say that isn’t going to cut it. It’s hard to defend Anderson, but he will get a couple more chances because he can play good defense at all three outfield spots. It’s not unthinkable that he could turn it around, but it’s doubtful it will be the White Sox to give him that opportunity.

With the 52nd overall pick, the Sox took another outfielder. This time it was Ryan Sweeney, a high schooler from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Scouts raved about Sweeney when he was in the minors, but like Anderson, has struggled since making it to the Majors. The Sox were very aggressive, maybe even too aggressive, by assigning him to high-A Winston-Salem with Anderson to start 2004. He struggled mightily in the first half, but rebounded for respectable numbers. The following year in Birmingham he put up similar numbers, but only hit 1 home run. At this point, people were wondering if his supposed raw power would ever develop. In AAA Charlotte as a 21 year-old, he hit 13 HR, but still only posted an .802 OPS. The next year he remained in Charlotte and an injury caused him to miss some time and resulted in a dip in his production, though he finally showed a good walk rate. Two September call-ups in 2006 and 2007 weren’t promising and Kenny Williams sold Sweeney’s stock to the A’s as part of the Nick Swisher deal. With the A’s he had a more encouraging 2008 campaign. He hit .286 and had a .350 on-base percentage, but hit just 5 HR. This year his numbers have taken a dip and Sweeney has just 8 HR in about 800 plate appearances in the Majors. There is more hope for Sweeney than Anderson. Ryan’s Major League numbers have been better, though that’s not saying much, and he is still only 24. Still, it’s hard to imagine Sweeney ever developing much power at this point, but he can hit for a decent average and plays good defense in the outfield. If Sweeney can recreate the production from his rookie year, he will have a long career in the Majors, but likely won’t ever be an All-Star.

The rest of the top ten rounds barely even produced a busted prospect. 4th rounder Robert Valido was thought of pretty highly, but received a 15 game suspension for testing positive for PEDs in 2005. Valido was a well respected defensive shortstop, but struggled to hit above A ball and was taken in the AAA phase of the 2008 Rule V Draft. Currently on the Orioles’ AA affiliate, the Bowie BaySox, he has an OPS below .600. Ouch.

9th rounder David Cook has had some success in the minors, but turned 28 today and hasn’t had a chance in the Majors yet. It doesn’t appear he will either. He mashed in Winston-Salem and Birmingham, but as one of the older players on each team. Currently with the Knights, he will need to hit there soon or his window for getting a shot in the Majors will shut.

The rest of the draft is filled with a bunch of guys who barely sniffed AA. 27th rounder Dwayne Pollok is currently bouncing from AAA team to AAA team and doesn’t look like he will ever get a look in the bigs. 14th rounder Ricardo Nanita manned the same outfield in Winston-Salem as Anderson and Sweeney in 2004, but didn’t develop like the other two and is floundering in AA. 6th rounder Chris Kelly had a dismal season in Birmingham in 2007 and is now playing independent ball.

Of the higher picks to flop, 3rd rounder Clint King posted huge numbers in Conference USA for Southern Miss, but couldn’t hit for two years in Kannapolis and retired in 2005. 5th rounder Matt Nachreiner and 7th rounder James Casey didn’t even make it out of rookie ball. 8th rounder John Russ didn’t do anything, at all. 10th rounder Fraser Dizard flamed out after a short stint in AA.

That may be the most depressing paragraph in FutureSox history. It just shows how bad the 2003 draft was.

A few redrafts had some success in other organizations. 11th rounder Ricky Brooks was actually redrafted by the Sox in the 3rd round in 2005 and is currently in the Barons’ bullpen. He is mostly a non-prospect at this point though. Donald Veal was taken in the 2nd round in 2005 by the Cubs and dominated A ball. He was mediocre in AA for two years and was taken in the Rule V Draft by the Pirates, giving him a shot in the Majors this year. The results were mixed at best (3.52 ERA and 7 K in 7.2 IP, but 10 BB) and he is currently rehabbing in the minors. 13th rounder Wes Hodges was a 2nd rounder in 2006 for the Indians. He is currently in AAA with a mediocre prospect status.

Overall, it’s a lot of crap. At least Anderson and Sweeney made it, but neither look like future standouts and the rest of the top 10 picks haven’t been worth much of anything at any points in their careers. The redrafts have been better, but only Brooks was taken by the Sox and it’s hard to count guys not signed as credits to the draft. People love seeing draft grades and it’s tough to evaluate them because the book isn’t closed on all of the players, but it wouldn’t be a grade you want to show Mom and Dad.

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4 Responses

  1. Disappointing. It ends up costing the organization more money to fill spots via free agency and gives them fewer trading chips. KW has done a good job winning a Championship and I think his scouting and minor league system is much improved. Hopefully in coming years the FutureSox look back at past drafts will be much more impressive for the 2008 and 2009 drafts.

  2. The 2003 draft was one of the worse drafts in the history of the organization. In fact one of the guys you mention, Ricky Brooks, whom was a redraft by the Sox in 05, ended up being a huge over-draft by the Sox. When he was drafted in the 3rd round BA and other insiders were shaking there heads indicating he wasn’t on anyone’s top 10 draft boards. Clint King was another pick that had me shaking my head back in 2003 and really the only picks that intrigued me on draft day were Nach, BA, Sweeney, Dizard, Veal, and Hodges. Veal and Hodges didn’t sign, Nach had medical issues (knee problems that most doctors felt would prevent him from pitching, but had phenomenal stuff), and Dizard had good stuff but elbow problems in college and those problems bugged him again with the Sox.

    Great write-up Dan!

  3. King mashed to the tune of a .394 average with 23 HR and a 1.221 OPS his last year at Southern Miss. I can understand the pick.

  4. King wasn’t projected to go anywhere near the top 3 rounds though. He had killer college numbers but didn’t project as a pro. Plus the crazier thing was that the organization had just selected Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney so to go OF again was puzzling.

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